XP Fans don’t despair, ReactOS may answer your prayer!


ReactOS is an open source project working toward producing a free, fully-fledged NT-based consumer operating system – in its early days ReactOS was touted as the free XP alternative.

reactos logo

The main goal of the ReactOS® project is to provide an operating system which is binary compatible with Windows. This will allow your Windows® applications and drivers to run as they would on your Windows system. Additionally, the look and feel of the Windows operating system is used, such that people accustomed to the familiar user interface of Windows® would find using ReactOS straightforward. The ultimate goal of ReactOS® is to allow you to use it as alternative to Windows® without the need to change software you are used to.

I recall my first encounter with ReactOS some 9 or 10 years ago when I was actually running XP on an old Dell machine and very interested in reading more about the project. At that time ReactOS was still in its infancy and obviously not fit for general consumption, so I bookmarked the project page and returned on a regular basis to keep abreast of developments. After around 2 years with seemingly very little progress, I lost interest and pretty much gave up on the whole idea. Even today, some 15 years after the project’s launch, ReactOS still remains in Alpha stage:

ReactOS 0.3.15 is still in alpha stage, meaning it is not feature-complete and is recommended only for evaluation and testing purposes.

So, ReactOS’s development has been a slow hard slog to date with still no final version in sight. However, there is now a light at the end of the tunnel, a hint that development may be accelerated per medium of a collaboration with the US fund raising company Kickstarter. This is very exciting news, can you imagine a fully fledged Windows-based operating system which is both free and open source? The implications are mind boggling!

reactos screenshot 1

sourceforge logo

This exciting new possibility was divulged by Aleksey Bragin, current project coordinator, during a recent interview on SourceForge:


SourceForge: Have you ever considered getting the project backed by a company?

Aleksey Bragin: Well I don’t want to spread too many rumors, but I can say that we do have something in the works. If all goes well, it’s going to be announced within a week. While I cannot go into too many details, I can say that it involves Kickstarter and what we believe to be a viable commercial product based off of ReactOS.

And for those skeptics who doubt the legalities involved with successfully producing and distributing a free Windows-based operating system, here is an excerpt from the SourceForge Q & A covering that very subject:

SourceForge: I understand a code audit is an on-going process in place to protect against legal problems. Is this just a time consuming activity or do you learn something along the road?

Aleksey Bragin: The code audit was internally done to try and determine the origins of code committed to the project. It achieved that goal and the project ultimately never found any proof of improperly submitted code.

Beyond that, there’s really little else to say. The ultimate defense is in having a test suite that captures the expected behavior of an NT operating system, something the project has invested considerable effort into with our kernel testing framework. For the win32 subsystem, we have borrowed a lot of the WINE project’s tests. However, when we have enough financial resources, we plan to utilize code auditing services provided by accredited third parties as a further safeguard.

With Microsoft seemingly concentrating primarily on making inroads into the mobile device market, and the continuing poor market penetration of Linux based desktop operating systems, the time is ripe for an alternative. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a further 15 years to come to fruition. 🙂

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

5 Comments

  1. Good thing they aren’t shooting for a Mac alternative,not that Apple’s lawyers aren’t brutal or anything….

  2. Your piece on ReactOS looked interesting, so I downloaded the OS and set off to run it on a virtual machine in VirtualBox. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the installation to go to completion – it just hung somewhere near the end. The interface looked pretty amateurish, and as installation went on I found myself asking: why bother? Why do we need a poorly executed version of an OS that is way out of date anyway? There is already an XP compatibility mode in Windows 7, and if you really need XP you can dual-boot it. XP can be obtained without difficulty, and thousands of people have worked on adapting and extending it, work that can never be repeated with ReactOS.

    Real XP SP3 has the advantage that it has been through the security mill and is pretty thoroughly patched; it is a long time since I heard of any fundamental security problems with XP directly. Who is going to adopt ReactOS with no such record of security hardening, and moreover maintained on a voluntary basis with no guarantee of patching?

    I have no doubt that it’s interesting trying to produce a Windows clone with about a thousandth of the manpower, but it’s such a waste of programming talent. These guys could much more productively be helping push forward the Linux effort. With Linux and Libre Office increasingly being adopted by various governmental institutions in Europe as efficient and cost-effective alternatives to Windows/MS Office, but with a really professional, user-friendly and configurable office Linux still lacking, there are still exciting opportunities.

    I’m afraid ReactOS is just reinventing the wheel, and a square wheel at that. You’re never going to finish it, lads. Just drop it. Spend your precious time doing something really constructive – Linux Mint Mate needs you!

    • You’ve painted a very gloomy picture regarding the future and present of ROS. I am sorry to say that there are millions of fans out there who would really like a Windows alternative which is free. Reasons? Well, for one, there will be no need to re-learn how to use a computer. Second, the software base for windows is mind boggling, so we have all our familiar apps running in ROS. Thirdly, no need to pay anything at all, and believe me, there are millions of computer users who CAN NOT afford Bill Gates! For them, it is a God send. We are prepared to wait for the final product. In the meanwhile, the rich shall continue paying Microsoft, and the have nots will keep pirating!